Liviu Librescu was only a kid when his family was deported from his native Romania to a labor camp in Transnistria, so he was only 78 years old -- young for a holocaust survivor -- when he died at Virginia Tech on Monday.Â Professor Librescu stood in the door of his classroom, blocking gunfire with his body, allowing many of his students to escape through the windows.
Â He died on what, ironically, was Holocaust Remembrance Day.
We will never know, and can only imagine, what thoughts ran through this heroic man's mind as he placed himself in harm's way on behalf of kids who were the age he was when he was in the Nazi camps.
His two sons and his wife of 42 years buried him in Israel today.Â He has been recognized in his native Romania with the Star of Romania, and in the US and in Israel with many accolades.
When we hear of a heroic death, perhaps rather than admiration for someone whose capacity extends beyond the ordinary, we should remember that heroic acts come from ordinary people.Â Professor Librescu was an academic to the core -- a prominent scientist in the area of thermal stresses in aeronautical engineering.Â From the accounts of family and friends, one gets the impression of a fussy older engineer, quiet and cordial.Â The sort of person one might see in any college town and never think twice.
The Washington Post reports:
Ariyeh, 36, reminded the crowd that his disciplined father would likely be wondering what all the fuss was about.
"I believe you are looking at us from above, at this gathering, and saying, 'What, don't you have anything to do? I did what I had to do,'" he said. "A hero has to have a combination of characteristics, which you had."
I can't help but recall when my father died.Â He was an amazing labor and civil rights activist, a Unitarian Universalist minister, and always a teacher.Â Dozens of people stood up at his funeral and called him a hero for his many peaceful acts.Â I had to stand up and remind people that we each have the opportunity to be heroic -- even if that means speaking truth to power, or just heading out our front door in the morning willing to keep peace and good in mind in every small act.
I can't help but to believe that the professor lived his life in that kind of readiness.Â My heart goes out to his family in Israel, and all those who knew and honor him.
Shava Nerad, News and Opinion Correspondent:
Shava Nerad has been working on the Internet for twenty-five years, at the boundaries of Internet and social issues.Â She is executive director of The Tor Project as her day job.Â She lives in Somerville, MA with her teenage son, her fiance (a professional magician and fundraising coach), and a corgi/dachshund mutt named George.
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